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it. It cannot be denied that this restriction, and the practice and claim which grew out of it, were justified, and it may almost be said necessitated, by the circumstances of the time and the nature of the case. It is no doubt a monstrous thing that a handful of Roman priests should possess the privilege and right of nominating an individual to exercise such a power in Christendom as that of the Popes grew to be. And though the more modern practice of selecting the members of the Sacred College from a much larger field, while adhering nominally to the ancient practice by virtue of the titles still assumed by the cardinals, may be held to have greatly modified the crude excess of the pretension as it was originally put forth, it is still an outrageous claim that the creature of such a body as the Sacred College should exercise such authority as is attributed to the Pope over the entire body of the Church, which claims to be de jure co-extensive with the world. But it may be safely assumed that neither the better nor the worser men of the curiously heterogeneous band of admirable saints and turbulent self-seeking sinners which constituted the Roman clergy of that time had any clear notion of the greatness of the thing they were arrogating to themselves. And it is at the same time very difficult, whether from the standpoint of the fifth or that of the fifteenth century, to imagine any scheme by which the end to be attained could have been on the whole more advantageously reached. It may be admitted further, that (though the circumstances which determined and finally fixed the pontifical election in the method which it has followed for more than a thousand years will
doubtless be eventually found to operate, like the canker at the root of a widely-branching tree, to the ultimate destruction of the institution) the amount of success which has been achieved by an arrangement so little promising in its appearance is one of the most interesting and curious problems which the history of the world offers to the statesman and sociologist.
Lateran Council of 1059.—Order of Cardinals.—Meaning of the Term.
First Traces of a Collegiate Body of Cardinals.-Number of the
The first step towards arriving at a fixed oligarchical method of election had, however, been taken somewhat before that election of the great Hildebrand as Gregory VII. in 1073. In the year 1059 Pope Nicholas II. had been raised to the throne in fact by the influence of Hildebrand, whose commanding figure stands forth during all this period as the real and effective ruler of the Church. This Nicholas had in the previous year held a council at the Lateran, by a decree of which he expressly deprived the general body of the clergy and the Roman people of any share in the pontifical elections for the future.* “The right of electing the Pontiff," so runs the decree, « shall belong in the first place to the cardinal bishops, then to the cardinal priests and deacons. Thereupon the clergy and the people shall give their consent; in such sort that the cardinals shall be the promoters, and the clergy and the people the followers.” In the same decree Pope Nicholas orders,
* Labbe, Concil., tom. ix. col. 1013.
that the future Pontiffs shall be chosen “from the bosom of the Roman Church” (which means, say the ecclesiastical writers, “from among the cardinals”), if a fitting person shall be found among them; and if not, from the clergy of any other church. He further orders that, “if it should happen that the election cannot by reason of some impediment be made in Rome, it may be performed elsewhere by the cardinals, even though there should be but few of them.”
Here we arrive at some degree of fixity in the attribution to the cardinals of the exclusive right to elect the Pope. We do not quite yet emerge from the fluid state of the hierarchical institution ; for further decrees were necessary and further vicissitudes had to be undergone before the solid condition of the institution is reached. But all the further changes and the decrees of subsequent Popes regard only the manner in which the cardinals are to carry out the task entrusted to them. It may be proper, then, here to explain as briefly as may be the origin and meaning, so far as it had any meaning, of the order of cardinals.
The dire necessity which constrains every wonderfully learned Dryasdust to find some different solution for his erudite problems from that suggested by his predecessor Dryasdust, has caused various more or less fanciful explanations of the origin of the term cardinal, as the title of an ecclesiastical prince, to be put forward. There seems, however, to be little room for doubt that the simplest of these is the true one. Cardo is the Latin for a hinge. The cardinal virtues are those upon which the character of a man mainly hinges, and are, therefore, the principal virtues. “Cardinals” are then principal priests. At all events Pope Eugenius IV., writing in 1431, supposed this to be the origin and meaning of the word. He calls the cardinals those on whom all the government of the Church hinges. «Sicut per cardinem volvitur ostium domus, ita super hoc sedes Apostolicæ totius Ecclesiæ ostium quiescit et sustentatur.” Some antiquaries have endeavoured to show that the term is used as early as the second century. This seems doubtful.* But it is certain that the word was in common use in the fifth century. Various principal and leading priests were then called “cardinals.” But the name had not yet come to have the signification
• Bingham, when pointing out that archipresbyteri were by no means the same thing as presbyteri cardinales (book ii. chap. 19, sec. 18), says that the use of the term cardinal cannot be found in any genuino writer before the time of Gregory the Great, i.e. the close of the sixth century. “For," says he, “the Roman Council, on which alone Bellarmine relies to prove the word to have had a great antiquity, is a mere figment.”
I retranslate from the Latin translation of Bingham, not having a copy of the original English to refer to. Nevertheless, whether Bellarmine cites them or not, there are a few other authorities for the earlier use of the term. See Moroni, voc. Cardinal.
In alluding (loc. cit.) to the origin of the term, Bingham notices the opinion of Bellarmine, that the word was first applied to certain principal churches, and remarks, that others have supposed that those among the priests in populous cities, who were chosen from among the rest to be a council for the bishop, were first called cardinals. And he cites Stillingfleet, who writes, in his “Irenicon” (part ii. chap. 6): " When afterwards these titles were much increased, those presbyters that were placed in the ancient titles, which were the chief among them, were called cardinales presbyteri, which were looked on as chief of the clergy, and therefore were the chief members of the council of presbyters to the bishop.” The title, however, seems to have been applied to the entire body of the canons in certain churches, as a privileged use allowed to those special sees. As to the above-mentioned council said to have been held at Rome by Sylvester I. in 324, it is regarded as authentic by Baronius as well as Bellarmine, and is judged to be apocryphal by Van Espen.